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Sidney Poitier died of heart failure, dementia and prostate cancer, death certificate says

Poitier, the first Black man to win an Academy Award for best actor, died at 94 this month.
Sidney Poitier speaks at the 39th AFI Life Achievement Award honoring Morgan Freeman on June 9, 2011, in Culver City, Calif.
Sidney Poitier speaks at the AFI Life Achievement Award honoring Morgan Freeman in Culver City, Calif., in June 2011.Frazer Harrison / Getty Images for AFI

LOS ANGELES — Sidney Poitier, the renowned actor, director and activist, died of a combination of heart failure, Alzheimer’s dementia and prostate cancer, according to his death certificate.

Poitier died in Beverly Hills, California, on Jan. 6. He was 94.

The certificate, issued by Los Angeles County, noted that Poitier's career as an actor spanned 76 years.

Poitier is revered as one of the greatest performers in American history, having made his mark as the first Black man to win an Academy Award for best actor.

At the zenith of his career, he was among the biggest draws to get audiences into movie theaters.

He had his first notable performing role was in 1946, when he made his Broadway debut in “Lysistrata.”

His feature film debut came in 1950 with the film noir “No Way Out.”

Poitier starred in a string of landmark films in the 1960s, including “Lilies of the Field,” “A Patch of Blue,” “To Sir, With Love,” “In the Heat of the Night” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”

His performance in “Lilies of the Field" won him the groundbreaking Oscar, and he would remain the only Black man to win an Oscar until Denzel Washington in 2002.

In addition to his Academy Award, Poitier was lauded with numerous other accolades, including the Kennedy Center Honors in 1995, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, two Golden Globe awards (including a lifetime achievement honor in 1982) and a Grammy for narrating his autobiography, “The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography,” published in 2000.

The same year, Poitier received an honorary Oscar “in recognition of his remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human.”

Poitier retired from screen acting in 2000 and went on to pen numerous books. In addition to his autobiography, he also wrote “Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter,” in 2008, and a novel, “Montaro Caine,” in 2013.

He was also the Bahamas’ ambassador to Japan from 1997 to 2007.

Poitier is survived by his wife, Joanna Shimkus, a retired actor from Canada, and five daughters: two — Anika and Sydney Tamiaa — with Shimkus and three — Beverly, Pamela and Sherri — with his first wife, Juanita Hardy. His daughter Gina died in 2018.